Hull, UK: A former rough sleeper is celebrating the next chapter in his life having gone from being homeless to independent living in just two years but says mental health awareness remains an issue.

Bob Chapman suffered from depression, which had lead to spiralling debt and ultimately him facing life on the streets.

Having spent four and half months living rough, including time camped in forests and living off berries, with the help of local homeless charity, Emmaus Hull and East Riding he has been able to transform his life.

Now living independently in his own flat in north Hull he is about to take his first steps back in to employment.

Former rough sleeper, Mr. Chapman said: “It was about 2000 when my depression first set in. My mum had died just after my birthday and not long after that we found out my dad was terminally ill.“I had a good job in the warehouse at Cranswick Foods but, because my sister had a disabled child, I gave up my job to become a full time carer for my dad.

“It was in 2015 that the depression really took hold. I couldn’t take any more bad news so I stopped leaving the house and avoided contact, even in the form of letters and phone calls.

“Eventually, when I did open one of the letters it told me I was going to be evicted. This was when I decided I just needed to get away from everyone and walked 191 miles in four days and ended up in Lincoln.

“For the next few months I only ate once every four days when I found some change, otherwise I lived off berries.

“Having had chance to clear my mind a bit I realised that I needed to set things straight. I phoned my sister and some family came to pick me up and told me about Emmaus.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve undertaken extensive training including maths, English, mental health and safeguarding, amongst many others.

“I’ve also worked with the outreach team, which supports those who are currently sleeping rough. Mental health is rife in the homeless community and there’s still a lot of education required in this area.

“If I had stayed on the streets I’d be dead now. Emmaus have helped me feel worth something again when it felt like no one else wanted to listen.

“My depression is something that will always remain with me but I now have it under control, when it could have been so different.”

Kelly Lousie Meacock, training leader at Emmaus Hull and East Riding, who has worked with Mr. Chapman since he first came to the charity, said: “When Bob first came to Emmaus, we set out a list of targets for him and a path for him to achieve them.

“It was a three-year plan and after two and half years Bob has realised everything he set out to do, which is testament to his hard work.

“He is now preparing to return to full-time employment, with a job secured he is just undertaking his final training before assuming the role.

“Bob’s case highlights a really important issue, that is particularly prevalent amongst the homeless community.

“Mental health can affect anyone and if the appropriate steps aren’t taken then things can spiral rapidly. Fortunately, Bob has been able to take control back and is now going from strength to strength.”

Anyone that is concerned about the mental health of a rough sleeper should notify Emmaus Hull and East Riding by downloading the app or by calling 01482 223 722.

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